Studies are a dime a dozen. This one came from the University of Missouri. It was also funded by the MIlkens.

If you are new to this controversy, society (corporations, elected officials, administrators) are for basing a teachers pay on merit. Teachers remain opposed to that concept, so much that when speaking of it, experts have dropped the word “merit” in front of the word pay.

Here are their objections.

It is difficult to rate teachers.
It is bad for teacher morale, and that affects teaching.
It puts politics into the choice of who is worthy of staying.

“Teach for Pay” was tried in England in 1710 with disastrous results. Teachers became obsessed with the rewards and punishments. “Teach for Pay” was tried in Canada in 1876. In 1883, public outcry ended the experiment permanently. In 1969 Arkansas tried the same, until it ended up disorganized, scandal ridden, and devoid of results.

Essentially, “Teach for Pay” caused these issues.

1) Performance based compensation programs encourage competition between teachers as opposed to cooperation.

2) The “us versus them” conflict between teachers and the powers that pay them, makes it difficult to handle compensation within a system that is not based on rules.

3) There is not one clear-cut objective definition of a “good teacher”. What is the Merit Pay to be based upon?

4) Relying on test scores to determine the extent of student learning, is not a direct correlation of student performance…

5) When you reward teachers for teaching results, no one wants to teach a certain race from a certain part of town.

6) Subjective Grading hinges entirely upon subjective bias and favoritism.

7) Performance based compensation will deflate individualism. It simply requires teachers to jump through hoops. Everyone will soon teach the same way.

8) Performance compensation awards the top 15-20% without making any effort to improve all teachers.

9) The costs of implementation a performance based system are very large.

10) Good teachers are those who do it to serve kids, not work for money. We want teachers who love to teach; not do it to simply earn money.

11) Performance Pay forces teachers to work harder to get more pay, but the extra amount of pay is not worth all the extra hard work required to achieve it.

12) If those who achieve merit status are posted, it may disaffect parents who disagree with that assessment, or who get very mad when their child is NOT put with a teacher of merit…

13) Great risks in comparing apples to oranges, for example the Private, corporate, for-profit sector, with teachers and education.

14) Performance based compensation cannot be forced from the outside.

15) Teaching is fine; kids are learning. It is the new systems being used to evaluate the teaching profession, which are flawed. Particularly if they are by firms who then turn around to sell their services to those very schools they evaluated…

Such are the “Cons”.. The “Pros” are as follows.

1) The reality is that something new has to be done: US mathematical skills are below almost all other countries. Urban poor populations are not achieving on the same level as are white influential suburban populations. The current system failed to achieve adequate results.

2) Some teachers will find performance-based pay distasteful and leave teaching . They will be replaced by teachers who prefer performance-based teaching and who will thrive in that environment.

3) Performance based pay is common in government, non-profits, and private and public education. It is commonly the preferred method of payment in most fields, not just the corporate private sector.

4) Are we not better off if all information regarding superior physicians, lawyers, or orthodontists is released? Should we instead, work to suppress any mention of “poor” physicians, “poor” lawyers, and “poor” orthodontists? Wouldn’t the same apply to teachers?

5) College Professors are awarded based on merit. They do not have to divert large amounts of their time away from their teaching and research, just to take external assessments to demonstrate their prowess. On the contrary, their exemplary teaching is recognized by their students, their peers, and administrators.

6) If a teacher really wants to teach, they will, no matter how low the level of pay drops to. Dedicated teachers will stay. Those teachers on the margins, who are simply there, will quit, and be replaced by other applicants who will be dedicated to being in love with teaching.

7) School systems could flatten out (drop) regular pay, and a merit pay pool could be introduced with not one penny of additional cost.

8) The fact that the quality of teachers has declined over the last 50 years, should be enough evidence that we are no longer attracting the top talent to our schools. Higher merit pay, will do so.

9) Allowing teachers to work as they wish is a very unrealistic standard. Very few professionals other than the President of the United States, get to work “as they wish”. Ultimately teachers are accountable to the taxpayers and cannot work as they wish.

10) Focusing merit pay on the gains achieved by students instead of their overall knowledge, could make teaching inner city children more lucrative because anything above a negative one, is a win.

11) We’ve always evaluated student progress by testing. Why not use the same tests measuring student progress, to measure the effect of that teacher too?

12) Merit pay is the primary pay method in service industries where it is far more difficulty to measure performance than in a classroom… For teachers, you measure what the student learned by two tests, one at the beginning, and one at the end. If there is significant and worthy growth, you reward the teacher. If not, you fire her/him.

13) Unions are socialist. Just as Communist Russia treated everyone with equal indifference, that is the environment teachers want for themselves. Their union demands it. Teachers will naturally be resistant to any change that gets rid of their protective union forever.

14) The TAP model of education reform provided by the Milken Foundation (patrons of this study), encourages collegiality and interaction among teachers. It will all simply, just work out.

So, there you have them. The Con’s first, then the Pro’s…..

And this may be quirky because it is just me who decided it, but it seemed to me, a proponent of merit-based teacher pay, that the con’s grievances were far more realistic than the idealistic hypothesis being offered as the reasons for going in the direction of merit pay… Again, that could just be me.

But, one thought I did have (and it will be my parting one I’ll leave with you), is that the job of governor is very similar to that of a teacher. How do you rate a governor as doing an exemplary job, or a very good job, or just a good job, or a less than great job, or a failure? Involved with that office are so many intangibles, millions of individual threads making up the tapestry of his four years in office,which make evaluating him, very similar to evaluating someone teaching in a school… Really it is a great comparison! He could decrease taxes and some people would cheer, while others cursed at him for cutting an invaluable service they required just so he could achieve those tax decreases… So how does one truly rate a governor? And if every one of his four years, he had to go before a board and pass a litmus test on his effectiveness, exactly how objectively could that be judged? Would he get the option to carry credits like one does on ones taxes from one bad year to the next? Because the governor, like teachers, always gets challenged by events totally beyond his control. In fact, one good definition of a governor’s job duties, is to “grab hold, and don’t let go until your time is up”…..

So, how well would it work, if we hired a governor, paying him on a sliding scale between $30,000 to $132,500? Would it be get better “governance” if he had to justify his work to an “impartial” jury, who would then determine his pay? Or, are we better off, to pay him enough at the beginning so it is one less thing he has to worry over, thereby allowing him to devote all his effort and time towards making our lives a little better?…..

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